18-28 March 2000
A photo montage by Don Roberson   [all photos © 2000 D. Roberson; all rights reserved]

These shots are from a fine "Focus on Nature" tour of the Lesser Antillean islands of St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Dominica (a trip led by Armas Hill), with a final day on Puerto Rico (a trip led by B. J. Rose and with a different set of participants). In the islands of the Lesser Antilles, we were successful in locating all island and regional endemics within a week. Regional highlights included the Brown Trembler (above left; photo'd on Dominica) and the Purple-throated Carib (below right; also photo'd on Dominica). The Trembler was actually engaged in nest-building in the eaves of the forest station at the Emerald Pool, and seemed oblivious to the hordes of cruise-borne tourists milling nearby.

The group total (including the day in Puerto Rico) was just over 100 native species (95 seen by me) and while this is not a very high number, it does include a number of species found nowhere else in the world. [For Steve Bailey and me, it also included the Grenada Dove as we did a single-day jaunt over to that additional country and managed to eke out poor views of that endangered species.] Just over 30 would be considered "regional endemics" and 15 of these are single island endemics, including four spectacular Amazon parrots in the Lesser Antilles, each rare and endangered. On Puerto Rico, most of us were lucky enough to see 4-5 Puerto Rican Parrots (only 35 left in the wild), and all participants at least heard this rarity. Among these single island birds are the St. Lucia Oriole on St. Lucia (below left) and the Red-necked Parrot on Dominica (below right).

A good portion of our success goes to our local leaders on each island -- Donald Anthony on St. Lucia, several locals on St. Vincent, Anthony Jeremiah on Grenada, and Bertrand John-Baptiste on Dominica. The shot below shows Bertrand with his "Dr. Birdy" vehicle. . .

The participants were a small but select group which included:

... a thinker [Ginny McNair]


... a dancer [Gail Choate-Pettit]

... and several who were noted performing disgusting and barbaric eating rituals [Steve Bailey and Jack aka Nick aka David Nichols, below]

Remarkably, we had seen every special endemic with a day still to go on Dominica, so Armas arranged a pelagic trip with local whale-watching expert Anthony Armour. The boat trip was not much for seabirds (~8 Pom Jaegers) but was spectacular for mammals with an exceptionally rare sighting of Dwarf Sperm Whale Kogia simis (above or right) and a huge school of 200-300 dolphin which may be the very little-known Fraser's Dolphin Lagenodelphis hosei (below). I am among the few birders on earth who had prior experience with this little known cetacean (from research cruises in the eastern tropical Pacific), but they were "lifers" for everyone else on the trip. The structure of these animals (very short snout, stocky shape, short dorsal), the school size & behavior (very leery of the boat), and much of the pattern was correct for the pantropical Fraser's, but these beasts differed from Pacific Fraser's Dolphins. They lacked the prominent "racoon-face" black band from eye to vent shown on most Pacific individuals, although a duller version was seen on some of the Caribbean ones. Our observation and these photos may illustrate a greater range of variation -- ocean to ocean -- among Fraser's Dolphins than is described in any of the literature I have located.

Finally, we came upon a wonderful Loggerhead Turtle offshore (below), rounding out a perfect 4-hour pelagic trip....

Here's hoping your next adventure is as pleasant as ours ....





Page created 30 Mar 2000, modified 4 Apr 2000